Some of my favorite authors include: Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, William Boyd, Peter Carey, E.M. Forster, Ernest Hemingway, Kazuo Ishiguro, Denis Johnson, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, David Mitchell, Charles Portis, James Salter, Wallace Stegner, David Foster Wallace, Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse.
Ali Smith writes beautiful prose, loves language and a good pun, lightly tackles weighty topics, and many of her plots could provide the makings of a Shakespearean comedy. In Winter, a struggling 30-something son, in an attempt to impress his successful and domineering mother, hires a young vagrant woman to impersonate his girlfriend, who walked out on him the week before his Christmas visit home. Add an estranged sister, absent for 30 years, all together on a rambling Cornwall estate for a perfect Smith-mix to tackle love, family, as well as the current global political backdrop.
In 1986, a massive fire at the Los Angeles Public Library was obscured in the national media by the concurrent Chernobyl disaster. Orlean uses the fire as a springboard to spin portraits of a variety of fascinating personalities and extended discourses on such unrelated topics as the birth of the city of Los Angeles and the difficulties of arson investigation. Her reassuring message throughout the book is that libraries are thriving despite (or maybe because of) the dual pressures of the digital age and the rise in homelessness. A current librarian quotes Albert Schweitzer and this important message "All true living takes place face to face." Highly recommended!
Consider me an evangelist for this wildly entertaining road novel which cleverly juggles grand contemplations of cosmic and theological mysteries with hilarious riffs on the short-sightedness and mundanity of modern life. Smart and thought provoking, Aaron Thier has written One True Book for our day and age.
Elvis Babbitt is a precocious 10-year old with a head for science. Although she, her renegade older sister, and befuddled father are "not a family of criers," Elvis is attending mandated weekly counseling sessions and developing an 18-month grieving plan. They are each coming to terms with the accidental drowning of her mother during a sleepwalking episode. Funny, poignant, and insightful, Hartnett has created an original and pure voice in her debut novel.
Quaint and quirky, this short novel revolves around a postman who escapes his dull routine by steaming open, and living vicariously through, the personal mail of his various patrons. One day he stumbles upon a romantic courtship conducted solely in the form of haiku poems and becomes obsessed with the correspondents. If this all sounds creepy, it all pulls together and delivers a very satisfying conclusion. The story has a sweetness reminiscent of The Housekeeper and the Professor or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry with the added benefit of a crash course in advanced haiku.
Filled with ghosts, memories, love and pride - this American family epic revolves around the lives of the thirteen children of Frank and Viola Turner and the rise and fall of Detroit from the early 1950's to the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. With Viola in her 90's, ill and failing, the generations come gather to decide the fate of the Turner home. Warm, human, yet vast in scope, this novel paints an intimate portrait of family.
This fast-paced and witty rumination on art, love, and philosophy is built around the Global Financial Crisis and the collapse of the Irish banking system. Given my background in global finance, I was particularly impressed with the light strokes Murray deployed to simply yet accurately render a fairly complex and potentially ponderous backdrop. However, as in his previous novel Skippy Dies, the main story line is merely a jumping off point as he deftly juggles multiple and varied topics with vivid scenes and memorable characters. Also here, the outright humor belies the depth and sincerity with which he approaches his underlying themes.
A strange book indeed - a meditation on love, humanity, and the need for sustenance, all told via an alien landscape. I knew nothing of Faber or his cult status when I began this book. I feel lucky to have opened it.
Find peace through simplicity and organization with detailed guidance from Marie Kondo, international lifestyle phenomenon.
The author, an accomplished falconer, boldly undertakes the "manning" of a goshawk, a large and vicious predator, as a means of coping with the sudden and unexpected death of her father. Although notoriously difficult to tame, she turns to The Sword and the Stone author T. H. White's chronicle, The Goshawk, for a road map. Along the way, she discovers common ground between the hawk's fierce temperament and her own. H is for Hawk is part grief memoir, part naturalist diary, part literary meditation. A rich and rewarding read, this book is already firmly established as one of the best books of the year.
I'm hardly a cat fanatic, or a fan of gothic/horror for that matter, but I really enjoyed this little diversion. The humor, use of language, and pastoral English backdrop made for a perfect combination while waiting for warmer Spring days.
Two stories - one modern, one 15th century - told in sequence but intricately intertwined through time, life experience, gender, and art. Ali Smith delivers a reading experience that comes around only rarely. I fell into this book completely. If you liked Possession, Headlong, Cloud Atlas, or Orlando then read this book.
Ten years and two wars in the post-Soviet Chechen Republic are recounted over five days through the lives and memories of a small group of villagers caught in the crosshairs of the conflict. At times beautiful, others brutal, it's a stunning portrait of a lesser known chapter in our modern world. Marra has written a first novel every bit as powerful as The Kite Runner or Everything is Illuminated.
The Rosie Project is Where'd You Go, Bernadette meets The Silver Linings Playbook. This book is laugh out loud funny and full of quirky characters involved in a sweet, upbeat story. I loved Rosie and Don. Start early in the day or else you'll be reading straight through the night!
This powerhouse novel is set in the 1970s and revolves around an unlikely trifecta of the New York art scene, motorcycles racing, and the Red Brigade labor confrontations in Italy. The narrator, Reno, is an artist, obsessed with speed, who relocates from the Nevada to New York. She falls in love with the disaffected heir of an Italian tire and motorcycle dynasty, sets a land speed record for women on the Bonneville Salt Flats, but crashes when she tries to connect with members of the family empire. Entertaining and informative, this ambitious work is garnering some impressive reviews from some industry heavyweights.
Hell-Bent is a fast-paced and comprehensive exploration of the origins and background of competitive yoga in America. The author is an out-of-shape, overweight, twenty-something when he stumbles into a yoga class and then quickly onto a fast-track personal journey of transformation, self discovery, and extreme physical obsession.
If you've had any exposure to yoga at all, you'll find many moments that make you laugh out loud or wince in painful recollection. Otherwise, sit back and simply enjoy this surprisingly well written firsthand account of a bizarre subculture of American life. Hell-Bent is every bit as entertaining as Word Freak or Moonwalking with Einstein.
Zeke Pappas is on an imminent deadline to find a wife and on a personal mission to re-establish a place for the humanities in a modern society more focused on crude entertainments and instant commercial gratification. Dean Bakopoulos is funny, thoughtful, and touching as he establishes his claim as this generation's great documenter of all the little imperfections of American life.
A collection of troubled souls finds solace and connection in the high desert of New Mexico through the course of a vigil for a young boy in a coma and the lone wanderings of a kind of wolf spirit. The stark and lyrical prose creates a strong connection for the reader to a widely drawn cast of characters in this magical novel.
On his way to the post box to mail a note of consolation to a long forgotten and now dying friend, Harold Fry decides to keep walking. Without a smart phone, backpack, or even a decent pair of shoes, Harold sets off to trek the length of England to reconnect with his friend and his past. Rachel Joyce is an award-winning playwright for BBC Radio and a stage actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Not surprisingly, the pace of her storytelling quickly puts you in cadence with Harold's journey and his contemplations of modern society, love, and family. This is a simple, but powerfully uplifting, debut novel.
William Boyd returns to some familiar ground in World War I Europe for this psychosexual spy thriller. Lysander Rief is a young stage actor who travels to Vienna for psychological analysis by a Freud contemporary and ends up pressed into an Allied undercover military assignment. Rief's particular medical treatment and acting background make him a less-than-trustworthy narrator of events as he attempts to uncover a traitor spy. One of England's best contemporary novelists, Boyd has just been contracted by the Ian Fleming estate to write a new James Bond novel in celebration of Bond's 60th anniversary.
I laughed out loud at the humor in the terse philosophical musings and staccato banter between two brothers, hired guns, on a manhunt across the California Gold Country. This modern take on the traditional Western novel is a fun, but substantive, read. If you liked True Grit (book or movie) you'll enjoy this. Winner of the 2012 Tournament of Books and a Booker Prize finalist.
Set in a Dublin boys' boarding school, this comedic tour-de-force ranges through typical teenage fare like video games and pop music to riffs on string theory and the Goddess Creation Myth. Daring and edgy.
This semi-autobiographical Vietnam War thriller is rife in detailed battle scenes with the North Vietnamese Army and the complex politics and race relations of the late 1960s. Written over the course of 30 years by a highly decorated veteran, this reads like an early Tom Clancy novel.
This entertaining read is part character study of the "mental athletes" of the competitive memory circuit and part primer on cognitive psychology. Learn about techniques for memorizing Homeric Poems and why teenagers today have trouble remembering their own phone numbers as you follow the author's preparations for the U.S. Memory Championships. If you work Sudoku or crossword puzzles to stay mentally sharp, you will probably benefit from some of the techniques described in this book. With the application of a few simple tricks, you will never forget an item on your grocery list again!
Hitchcock, "The Fugitive", and MC Escher combined in a postmodern noir thriller. Darkly funny and sexy, this debut novel is great fun.
This lost classic has been revitalized by the recently released Coen brothers' movie. The dialogue and pace of author Charles Portis have been faithfully rendered in the film. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will find something compelling in 14 year-old Mattie Ross's quest to hunt down her father's killer. This is a great book for vacation travel as it can truly be read and enjoyed by everyone in the family.
In 1799, Dejima is a small, artificial island in Nagasaki Harbor that serves as the sole port for a Japanese Empire sealed off from the outside world. Jacob de Zoet travels to Dejima from Holland to earn his fortune with the Dutch East India Company. Instead, he discovers a world of corruption and treachery, and is beguiled by the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor.